Imaginations of the Future: Technological Futures
Editor’s Note: We feature the brilliant recommendations of our partner, the Champaca Bookstore, in the Read section twice a month. FYI: Champaca is an independent women-run and founded bookstore and children's library in Bangalore.
This is part two of an excellent series on how technology will reshape the world–an enduring cause for angry debate throughout the history of humankind. The fascinating topics range from AI to social media. Read part one here.
Written by: Nirica Srinivasan, writer and illustrator.
Stories of the technology of the future have been a staple of the SF genre since its inception, and in fact form the basis of the most widespread definitions of what constitutes “science fiction”. And real-world technology is being improved and invented at a record rate. Doesn’t the NYT article about a conversation with ChatGPT sound straight out of an SF novel? (We’d also recommend reading SF writer and scientist Ted Chiang’s very succinct exploration of how ChatGPT works!) Artificial intelligence, the rise of surveillance, memory-keeping, flying cars—these stories may be less about what technologies we can expect to be introduced in the years to come, and more about what they could be saying about the world we already live in.
Artificial Intelligences: In Mary Shelley’s classic novel ‘Frankenstein’ and Becky Chambers’ A Closed and Common Orbit, we come up against questions of identity, authority, love, and the search for connection, told through the stories of created, artificial intelligences. ‘Frankenstein’ is sometimes considered the first ever science fiction novel—and Mary Shelley started writing it when she was just eighteen! In ‘A Closed and Common Orbit’, an artificially intelligent being wakes up in a new body, explores the universe, and falls in love.
Digital worlds and digital memories: Ted Chiang’s ‘Exhalation’ is an expansive, inventive, and deeply thoughtful collection of short stories that examine our possible place in the world, and our relationship to the technology we create. In Vauhini Vara’s moving novel ‘The Immortal King Rao’, set in a techno-capitalist future, we meet an ambitious man, a powerful Algorithm, and a young woman trying to understand her father’s past.
Surveillance and Social Media: Today, we are already surrounded by so much tech – social media platforms, cameras, and tracking devices. In Luiza Sauma’s ‘Everything You Ever Wanted’, the protagonist gets the opportunity to leave her humdrum life, her office job and ringing phone, and move to another planet that promises to be better. But is it? In Samanta Schweblin’s eerie novel ‘Little Eyes’, little stuffed toys hold cameras, and people can choose to view through them, or allow one to enter their house. It’s a moving, unexpected story of the ways our hyper-connected world might be dividing us.
We recommend pairing these fictional explorations with these nonfiction stories – Jia Tolentino’s ‘Trick Mirror’, a personal exploration of how tech, culture, and feminism intersect; Oliver Letwin’s ‘Apocalypse How?’, which explores (through the example of the UK) our dependence on technology and what would happen if we faced a collapse; ‘Invisible Women’ by Caroline Criado Perez, an exploration of how existing technology and infrastructure is predicated on data that is primarily male; and ‘Intimate City’ by Manjima Bhattacharjya, an exploration of intimacy in the digital age in India.
Life at Champaca
In February, join us for a hands-on workshop for young people where we explore concepts in ecology and conservation through the medium of zine-making. We also discuss books on Women in Science to celebrate International Day for Women and Girls in STEM with Dr Gita Chadha and Prof. Hiya Ghosh!
If you’re in Bangalore, we invite you to come to our lush, leafy store, attend the events and browse through our shelves with cold tender coconut water/ a hot cup of coffee, as per the whims and fancies of the ever-changing Bangalore weather!